Biloxi Puts Off Flood Elevation Decision Again

FEMA argues that its elevation changes are necessary to prevent rebuilt homes from being flooded again.

Some Biloxi councilmen argue that their constituents can't afford to meet the stricter guidelines. Their compromise is to go up just a few feet, and get the rebuilding started.

One Lameuse Street resident is doing just that. A pile of dirt sits on property at 255 Lameuse Street. It's the foundation for the next phase of Felix Farrington's life.

"I'm excited," the Biloxi resident said just a week after receiving his city building permit. "This is going to be my first new house in my life. And I'm 53-years-old."

Farrington didn't wait for Biloxi to adopt post Katrina flood elevation guidelines. He had plans drawn up for a house that would be significantly higher than the one the hurricane devoured.

"Basically, I'm doing the best I can to go way above," he said.

Farrington's new home will sit 22 feet above the mean high tide. His previous house was at the 16 foot level. Those numbers are comparable to the elevation levels being debated right down the street.

After weeks of study, Biloxi councilmen thought this would be the meeting they set new elevation standards for flood zones, and for the rest of the city. But the ordinance on the agenda to go up just four feet lacked the mayor's backing.

"This is not our recommendation," Mayor A.J. Holloway told councilmen as the meeting started. He demanded that his name be taken off it.

The mayor's suggestion to follow FEMA's more stringent proposal adding nine to 11 feet to the base height of a property didn't have east Biloxi's support.

"You just can't build that down there," ward one councilman George Lawrence grumbled.

So another meeting ended without a decision about Biloxi's new flood elevation guidelines. And promise was made to try again next Tuesday. The council scheduled a special meeting specifically to address the flood elevation issue.

The delay bothered ward seven councilman David Fayard.

"We're holding people up trying to get their lives put back together," he said.

Felix Farrington said that wasn't necessarily true. And the Biloxi hurricane victim had the plans and the desire to prove that at least his family's life could be put back together, "because I love this place," he said. "I wouldn't live anywhere else."